As leaders, people are looking to us to know what to do. Is that fair? The truth is, this situation is unprecedented and we have just as much information as those we lead; sometimes less if we are juggling too much. Managing in this environment was definitely not in the job description.
So how do we lead in a place and time we’ve never been before and where we are not sure where to go next?
We lead by example, with optimism, empathy, bravery and collaboration. We have to adapt to the situation as it evolves but most of all, we have to always remember that our people come first.
Lead by example and make sure you are not asking them to do things that you would not do yourself. If you are asking your team to make sacrifices, make them yourself first. Conversely. If you are pushing for more work life balance, then make sure you show them how to do it.
There is so much skepticism around, your team needs some optimism, whether you believe it yourself or not. In times of uncertainty, go with the glass half full and you may be right 50% of the time and even if you are wrong, you made your team feel better for a bit.
You must be able to see things from the perspective of your team. Empathy is so important when those you lead are scared and concerned. This doesn’t mean that you have to know or sense how they feel. At a minimum, it means asking questions instead of assuming and then taking the answers to those questions and reflecting on them as if they were your own answers. This will provide insight into what they need from you.
We are all scared and concerned, being brave means that you move forward anyway. Being brave means that you’ll stand up and stand out for what’s right for your team.
You’re not alone. Collaboration is essential. Because this is a new world and you as the leader don’t have all the information, it creates a great environment for collaboration with your team and within your organization. Leaders should invite everyone in to discuss and provide input into strategy, especially the people that are doing the day to day work.
In such a fluid situation, you have to be able to adapt, or get out of the way. This is no time to be stubborn or to fall back to what you’ve done before. Make data-driven collaborative decisions based on both qualitative and quantitative data and be prepared for that data to change rapidly.
Most of all, remember that as a leader, your people come first. If they don’t, they will know it, and you may keep the title, but you will lose your team.
This is what our people are looking for from us as leaders, no more and no less.